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Supporting local authors; Sweet Reads gives writers a chance to talk with their readers

Lining the shelves and tables of Sweet Reads Books and Candy on Main Street are used books by best sellers such as Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele and Clive Cussler.

But at the front of the store, visitors are greeted by books written by local authors. One can marvel at the number written by authors from Austin alone.

And every now and then, visitors can meet the authors through meet and greets arranged at the store.

“I started the first author meet and greet back in August 2016,” said Sweet Reads owner Lisa Deyo. “We played with evenings, particularly nights during the weeks and the Saturday afternoons. We’re doing about three to four a month.”

The first meet and greet was with Grant Blackwood, who was in town for the 2016 Austin ArtWorks Festival. Blackwood has published several of his own books and has written with names like James Rollins, Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler.

Deyo says that most of the authors featured have been from Austin.

Author Chris Norbury speaks during an author’s visit Saturday at Sweet Reads in downtown Austin.

“They almost all have been in Austin or are very connected to Austin,” she said. “Those that are not have graduated from Austin and are in their retirement years and have moved away.”

Deyo says she has also had authors from Blooming Prairie and Rochester.

The author meet and greets have included authors of all genres, from first-time authors to established professionals.

“I am so thrilled at the spread of genres,” Deyo said. “I was a little worried that we would only have fiction writers, and then it was looking like we’d only have mystery writers. But that’s not the case. We have romance, historical fiction, nonfiction history, memoirs, poetry books and science. We spread across the board.”

Deyo says that the experience is very gratifying for both the authors and the visitors.

“The conversation is phenomenal,” she said. “People are truly interested in their books, how they created the story, how they got published. These authors have a lot to share, and it’s rewarding for the visitors.”

Sometimes the visits can be deeply moving and profound.

“I just wanted to cry when I heard Virginia Larson’s story,” Deyo said about Larson, who took a German book of holocaust stories, “Shadow Stories,” and translated it into English. “It has been such a success. She feels like she has brought to America these stories that are so important. We did her meet and greet and you could hear the emotions that went into these stories.”

Author Chris Norbury reads from his book “Castle Danger” during a visit Saturday to Sweet Reads.

Visitors can purchase the books from Sweet Reads as well as get them signed by the authors. The meet and greets have included award-winning local authors like Peggy Keener and Michael Cotter.

Deyo encourages residents to come to the meet and greets to support the local authors.

“People have stories to share,” she said. “It’s a chance to recognize that people around Austin are talented, hard working and putting their soul on the line for us to see. They put years into their stories and plenty of money and there is so little profit unless they become a big name. The biggest thing we can do is support our authors.”

“It’s exposure to good literature that is homegrown,” she added.

The next author meet and greet will be at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, at Sweet Reads. Author and Hormel Food Stylist Jim Rude will discuss his book “Herbs.” For more information, call 507-396-8660.

For more, visit www.facebook.com/Sweetreadsbooks/